‘Whiplash’ director takes one small step towards Neil Armstrong biopic

09.24.14 2 years ago 2 Comments

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Writer-director Damien Chazelle is already at the top of the world with his musical drama “Whiplash” earning rave reviews from all its festival stops. Now he's headed straight for the moon.

The filmmaker is in talks to direct “First Man,” a biopic for Universal Pictures that tells chronicles the life of Neil Armstrong, the esteemed astronaut and first man to set foot on the moon. Josh Singer (“The Fifth Estate”) will pen the script, based on “First Man: A Life of Neil A. Armstrong” by James Hansen. The Hollywood Reporter adds that Hansen will have full access to Armstrong's family as well as NASA when he wrote the tome. No word if Stanley Kubrick's original moon footage will also be available (just kidding – maybe?).

The idea of adapting Armstrong's story has been a long-gestating endeavor for Hollywood, in motion for nearly 10 years. At one point, Warner Bros. thought they'd make the movie with Clint Eastwood producing and directing. How Chazelle and Singer will re-approach the film is unknown. Armstrong's life is fairly straightforward, beginning his career as a Navy bombing pilot before jumping to a test pilot position in the '50s and '60s (see: “The Right Stuff”). From there, he crossed over into the astronaut life, chosen as a participant in the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Perhaps more interesting is what came after: After returning to Earth, Armstrong turned his back on the fame that came with his iconic walk, denying speaking requests, moving to the country, and swearing off autographs. One giant leap for mankind, one shy aviator's speedy retreat.

Inversely, Chazelle seems OK with his rapid success. Everyone at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival walked in to Chazelle's “Whiplash” skeptical. The involvement of Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, and producer Jason Reitman were encouraging, but this was the opening night of the fest – a spot notoriously dominated by so-so entries. Expectations were blown to smithereens when “Whiplash” blasted across the screen with all the color and ferocity of a Buddy Rich drum solo. Ten days later, people were still talking about “Whiplash.” In a surprise to no one, the film took home both Sundance's U. S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and the Audience Award.

As “Whiplash” entranced the programmers of Cannes, Toronto, and the New York Film Festival, demand for Chazelle snowballed. In June, he solidified his follow-up: “La La Land,” a musical love story that will reunite the director with Miles Teller and add Emma Watson to the mix. THR reports that “First Man” will likely shoot after that film.

“Whiplash” will open in limited release Oct. 10.

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